TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Director Sav Rodgers’ Chasing Chasing Amy is a love letter of gratitude to Kevin Smith’s 1997 film Chasing Amy. That’s how this begins, but as Rodgers digs deeper into the messy issues of sexual orientation, fluidity, homophobia, and the naïveté of the main characters, as well as the convoluted emotional history of the production, he inadvertently pulls the curtain back on unexpected revelations that color how he sees the film. The journey begins with a young Rodgers, pre-transition, trying to sort out his identity in the relatively backward culture of Kansas.
At age 12, as Rodgers struggled with this precarious time in his life, he was already a fan of Ben Affleck when he stumbled across Smith’s third feature. After a particularly egregious bullying attack at school, Rodgers is conflicted and suicidal and talks about how Chasing Amy was his balm, soon becoming an obsession. According to Rodgers, the film was critical to him because it depicts people with sexual orientations he could identify with at a time when media simply did not contain realistic representations of LGBTQ+ characters. He says the film saved his life. Once he decided to become a filmmaker, he chose to explore the legacy of that beloved cult favorite as an LGBTQ+ film. The experience of making the doc went far beyond this simple notion.
“…a love letter of gratitude to Kevin Smith’s 1997 film Chasing Amy.”
When Kevin Smith heard about Rodgers and saw his 2020 TED talk, he reached out. That was the genesis of Chasing Chasing Amy. Fans of the Smith film know it’s problematic. Thorny issues come nonstop in a movie meant to be a Rom-Com. Affleck plays comic book artist and regular guy Holden McNeil, with Jason Lee as his noisy sidekick Banky, an aggressive, unrepentant homophobe. Holden winds up befriending and falling in love with Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) and does so with full knowledge that she is gay.In the course of the documentary, Rodgers interviews Smith and most impactfully, Joey Lauren Adams.
All of the complexities in Chasing Amy come from lived experience. Smith, of course, was not at that time an enlightened, sophisticated filmmaker looking to put his stamp on the history of LGBTQ+ film. He was certainly not unsympathetic to the cause, as he’d had some exposure to the struggle because his brother is gay, but that’s not what drove him to make it. In an interview, he reveals that the story of Holden, Banky, and Alyssa was drawn from actual events in his life. The filmmaker wasn’t clever enough to make all this up, particularly at 26 years of age. Rather he wrote what he’d seen firsthand.
"…Chasing Amy has always had a conflicted legacy."